Wik­iLeaks: storm in a teacup

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - Dr Manzur Ejaz

Aweak and un­pop­u­lar pres­i­dency suits the mil­i­tary bet­ter. Why would the mil­i­tary cre­ate a sit­u­a­tion in which Mian Nawaz Sharif - with greater pop­u­lar­ity - would take the reins in his hands and start im­ple­ment­ing the Kerry-Lu­gar Bill's con­di­tions on the mil­i­tary?

De­spite all the noise and sen­sa­tional head­lines, Wik­iLeaks has not added much to what we al­ready knew. The cor­re­spon­dence be­tween Washington and US di­plo­mats in Is­lam­abad shows the wide set of US con­tacts with Pak­istan's lead­ing in­sti­tu­tions and per­son­al­i­ties. But there is noth­ing new, unique or re­veal­ing be­cause the US am­bas­sador and other top of­fi­cials meet Pak­istan's top civil­ian and mil­i­tary man­agers pub­licly. If these leaks re­ally show any­thing, it is the in­ca­pa­bil­ity of the US in­flu­ence in de­ter­min­ing the po­lit­i­cal dis­course in Pak­istan and else­where. Fur­ther­more, the leaks have also shown that Pak­istan's rul­ing elite has a cer­tain dis­ci­pline in the for­eign pol­icy arena: it seems that the na­ture of Pak­istan's re­la­tion­ship with China and many other coun­tries has not been shared with the Amer­i­cans.

We all know that the US was so con­nected to Gen­eral Pervez Mushar­raf that it could not see any­thing be­yond him. Saudi Ara­bia also pre­ferred him to Be­nazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. How­ever, de­spite their strong de­sire, the US could not stop the po­lit­i­cal process trig­gered through the move­ment for the restora­tion of an in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary. Af­ter a pro­longed wa­ver­ing the US had to ac­cept the re­turn of Pak­istan's top ex­iled lead­ers, Be­nazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif.

The US State Depart­ment had been shun­ning Be­nazir Bhutto, forc­ing her to take help from ev­ery Tom, Dick, and Harry to talk to the Amer­i­cans. It was the rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion of the lawyers' move­ment and the fear of wide­spread an­ar­chy that forced the US to in­ter­ject main­stream po­lit­i­cal par­ties back into the demo­cratic process. It is true that the US had enough in­flu­ence to do so, but the ba­sic dy­nam­ics of change were in­ter­nal rather than ex­ter­nal. There­fore, an­a­lysts, po­lit­i­cal pun­dits and even politi­cians who look to­ward Washington for power have an ex­ag­ger­ated view of US in­flu­ence in Pak­istan.

Ap­par­ently, the US did not want Chief Jus­tice Iftikhar Chaudhry re­in­stated. The then US Am­bas­sador to Pak­istan, Anne Pat­ter­son, tried to con­vey such a mes­sage to Mian Nawaz Sharif and did her best to con­vince him to be con­tent with restora­tion of some high court judges only. Mian Nawaz Sharif stood his ground and in­sisted that with­out the re­in­state­ment of the chief jus­tice, there is no mean­ing of restora­tion of the de­posed ju­di­ciary. And who had the last laugh, Mian Nawaz Sharif or Anne Pat­ter­son?

At that crit­i­cal junc­ture the US made a big mis­take by ad­vis­ing the Zar­dari-Gi­lani govern­ment to re­sist the restora­tion of the ju­di­ciary. Ul­ti­mately, the restora­tion of the ju­di­ciary could not be stopped but in the process the PPP lost its cred­i­bil­ity with the peo­ple. The whole episode of the long march for the restora­tion of the ju­di­ciary left the Zar­dari-led PPP in a much weaker po­si­tion in com­par­i­son to Mian Nawaz Sharif and the army chief, Gen­eral Kayani.

It has not been re­vealed in Wik­iLeaks how Gen­eral Kayani played the piv­otal role at the last moment when the po­lice were sud­denly pulled out from stop­ping the long march. But one thing is clear - the out­come was de­ter­mined by in­ter­nal dy­nam­ics, not at all by the US. If Gen­eral Kayani put his foot down on the judges' restora­tion, it shows that, con­trary to com­mon per­cep­tion, Pak­istani in­sti­tu­tions look for their own and/or na­tional in­ter­est - right or wrong - and do not take dic­ta­tion.

The mil­i­tary's in­volve­ment in Pak­istani pol­i­tics can never be ruled out but it ap­pears that af­ter the Zar­dari-Gi­lani part­ner­ship was fa­tally wounded by the long march, the po­lit­i­cal dy­nam­ics quickly changed. From that point on, the mil­i­tary's in­volve­ment in for­eign pol­icy and se­cu­rity is­sues started creep­ing back to the Mushar­raf era sta­tus quo.

The Kerry-Lu­gar Bill fur­ther pro­vided the im­pe­tus for the mil­i­tary to re­assert its in­de­pen­dence, rather supremacy, over the civil­ian in­sti­tu­tions. It may be true that Gen­eral Kayani was in­formed about the bill be­fore its pas­sage and he had no ob­jec­tions as was claimed by many US sen­a­tors. It is pos­si­ble that the corp com­man­ders and other mil­i­tary gen­er­als pres­sured Gen­eral Kayani to take a stand against Kerry-Lu­gar Bill.

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